Front lining much of gaming culture, the first-person shooter, or FPS, is a genre of video games that has been consistently popular since the early 1990s. With the release of games like Doom and Quake, the FPS genre quickly became one of the most popular genres in gaming. Let’s take a look back at the history of the FPS shooter, from its humble beginnings to its current mainstream popularity.
The First FPS Game
The first FPS game is widely considered Maze War. Believe it or not, Maze War was developed in 1973 by a team of researchers at NASA. It was a simple game that allowed players to navigate a 3D maze and shoot each other, laying out the foundations of the genre. The game was developed as a way for researchers to test out new computer hardware and display technology. But despite being the first FPS game, Maze War was never released to the public.
The first commercial FPS game came almost 20 years later, and was released in 1992 by id Software. It was a little game called Wolfenstein 3D and it revolutionised gaming. It featured 3D graphics, fast-paced action, and a simple storyline that pitted players against Nazis in a secret bunker. It was a breakthrough in gaming technology, and it set the stage for the FPS genre to become one of the most popular genres in gaming. Cementing its place in gaming history, which continues strongly until this day.
The Doom and Quake Revolution
While Wolfenstein 3D changed a lot, its impact is dwarfed compared to the following two games released by id Software. In 1993, they released Doom, which was an even bigger success than Wolfenstein 3D. It featured more complex levels, more advanced graphics, and, most importantly, a multiplayer mode that allowed players to compete against each other over a LAN network. Doom was a massive hit, and it inspired a whole generation of competitive, multiplayer FPS games.
Three years after Doom, in 1996, id Software released Quake. Quake was yet another revolutionary FPS game from the same developers. Quake thrived in the competitive scene and quickly became a hit due to its fast, tense combat. Quake also levied the power of the internet becoming one of the first games to natively support online multiplayer, catapulting its competitive potential even further. This saw the game quickly spawn tournaments and LAN parties across the world of gaming. Quake also introduced lots of FPS concepts which have stuck around; such as strafe-jumping, rocket jumping and, fundamental to Quake’s runaway success, mods, which allowed players to create their own levels, weapons, and game modes.
Pre-2000s FPS; and LAN Parties
In the years leading up to the new millennium, the FPS genre continued to evolve. Games like Unreal Tournament, Half-Life, and Medal of Honor expanded on the concepts introduced by Doom and Quake, and they added new features including; more extensive single-player campaigns, more complex AI, better graphics and benefitted from many, many user created mods!
At the same time, the popularity of LAN parties was growing. These events were where groups of gamers would get together with their computers and connect to a local network to play games like Quake and Unreal Tournament. LAN parties were a great way for gamers to socialize and compete against each other in a fun and challenging environment. They also acted as the precursor to modern FPS Esports tournaments.
2000s Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and the Internet Revolution
While Quake natively supported internet play, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the FPS genre underwent the transition to foregrounding online multiplayer. With the rise of the internet, multiplayer gaming moved from LAN parties to online servers. Games like Counter-Strike and Call of Duty took advantage of this new technology, and they became some of the most popular FPS games of all time—something you can probably guess as they are both still around today.
Counter-Strike was a huge hit in the early 2000s, and it spawned a whole subculture of competitive gaming. Call of Duty, on the other hand, was a more cinematic and story-driven FPS game that focused on single-player campaigns as well as multiplayer. Together, they pushed the FPS genre to different sectors of the gaming community.
Going Mainstream: Hybrid Games, Battle Royale and Esports
In recent years, the FPS genre has continued to take up much of the gaming mainstream. Games like Overwatch, Apex Legends, and Fortnite have introduced new elements to the genre, such as hero-based gameplay, battle royale modes, and third-person perspectives. These games have expanded the appeal of the FPS genre to a wider audience, and they have become some of the most popular games in the world.
The popularity of these games has also been one of the pillars in the rise of Esports. Counterstrike may be one of the most longstanding and popular FPS Esports, but games like Overwatch and Apex Legends have gained wider audiences much faster due to their broader appeal. Establishing themselves as major players in the esports world, and they are poised to become even more popular in the coming years.
FPS are Here to Stay
The FPS genre has come a long way since the early days of Maze War and Wolfenstein 3D. With each new game, the genre has evolved and expanded, adding new features, gameplay modes, and technology. Along the way, different games have come to appeal to every corner of the gaming industry—from casual players to story lovers to Esports pros. Today, FPS games are some of the most popular and profitable games in the world, and they are enjoyed by millions of players around the globe. Due to their continued popularity, it is clear that the FPS genre will continue to be a major force in the gaming industry for years to come.